A piano sits in the middle of a quaint room as Maris Racal plays the delicate yet upbeat melody of her single Not For Me. Produced and arranged by Rico Blanco and written and composed by Maris herself, the song is a bittersweet track that's perfect for any rainy day. The music video is equally romantic and soulful, and was actually shot and directed by fashion photographer Shaira Luna and edited by her brother Lance Luna.
“We were a team of five people,” Shaira tells Preview. The photographer is actually no stranger to working during the pandemic and has practically come to terms with the fact that a lean team is a safe team—especially when everyone wears the right gear and practices social distancing. In this exclusive interview, Shaira talks to us about what really happened behind-the-scenes of this beautiful black and white video, and how everything started when Maris slid into her Instagram DMs.
How did the project come about?
Maris was the one who messaged me on Instagram. She just asked if I was free that month, and we were in the middle for lockdown. I did have free time. I think it was just really that we were concerned about the GCQ, or all the regulations [about shooting during this time]. But of course, I would make time for her.
What were the pegs for the video?
Maris sent me four photographs that were in black and white. And they were very, very simple pegs. She just wanted to be in a black dress, and she wanted it to be a performance video basically, nothing fancy, no deep meaning, no hidden symbols. It was really just a girl playing the piano or even just sitting on a chair.
The song itself isn't that heavy. It's not dramatic. It's easy to listen to. And I think what she wanted to showcase was her piano playing skills as well as her songwriting skills. Because aside from being an actress, she can actually make music and sing. So that's what she wanted to highlight.
What about the fashion?
It was just a black dress, very simple. I wanted to tone down a lot more—I even just wanted her to wear a white sando. She actually wears a white top in the video, it's a little bit more fitted. But I think that's a good in between, so it's not too casual but also it's not dressed up as she normally would be. I requested for her to be barefoot.
For most of the video actually, she was barefoot. And then Ryuji Shiomitsu [the stylist] had dresses made for her. I believe we had one white lace dress and a black velvet dress. I know Maris also wanted a black velvet dress for her piano shots. Very simple. No accessories even. I think there's just one scene where she had earrings on but everything was just pared down.
"I think what she wanted to showcase was her piano playing skills as well as her songwriting skills. Because aside from being an actress, she can actually make music and sing"—Shaira Luna
What was it like working with Maris and Rico?
Well, it was really Maris and I. We just followed a brief. My brother and I made the pegs for her just for the flow of the song. We didn't do a mood board for this. We also didn't have a storyboard. I think we were very concerned about the schedule and the location. There were only five of us really doing the video. Rico was not present. I honestly didn't know he was part of it until we already shot everything. One night Maris was like, "Oh, can we go on a zoom call? And she said by the way, Rico will be there, okay?" Rico Blanco on Zoom? Yeah, sure!
I wasn't really nervous; I guess because the video was simple, and Maris knew what she wanted. So my brother and I, I have a brother who edits the videos, we just followed the shots she liked, or if she had any more suggestions, or if she preferred certain shots over the others.
But Rico had the same concerns. He just wanted the video to be a showcase of Maris playing piano and he was really adamant about inserting a lot of performance shots of her touching the keys, of her singing, close ups of her hands playing the piano or her around the piano. So whatever shots we took that we wanted to replace, they were always replaced with performance shots and I think it's great that they're on that same level of thinking.
"I enjoy the process of collaborating with whoever I'm shooting. I like making little skits and giving directions; I really enjoyed that part of make-believe, and music videos have that as well! It's just more fun because you get to [make your subjects] move and have them not just space fill."—Shaira Luna
What’s the difference between directing a music video versus a photoshoot?
Honestly, there's not much of a difference in terms of directing because when I shoot photographs, whether they're editorials or a commercial shoot, I enjoy the process of collaborating with whoever I'm shooting. I like making little skits and giving directions; I really enjoyed that part of make-believe, and music videos have that as well! It's just more fun because you get to actually [make your subjects] move and have them not just space fill. That's basically the difference for me.
Would you like to do more music videos in the future?
Maybe I'll do it for people who are familiar with my style, but I'd be very scared to do it. If you look at the list of the people, I've done videos for they’re people I pretty much know. The most memorable one was for IV of Spades for their song Take That Man. We were nominated for Video of the Year at the AWIT Awards. So that was really surprising! And that was the first actual music video my brother and I have done.
We did a short vertical one for Claudia Baretto two years ago; and then I've also worked on music videos for Moira [Dela Torre] and I Belong To The Zoo. So, I mean, I've always had that link to music. I started out as a music photographer, so I guess I just love that the connection is still there, or that it's come full circle. I guess as long as it's something or someone I'm comfortable doing music videos with, then of course I'm going to consider it. But I'm still mainly a fashion photographer at heart, and it's just nice to do these things once in a while, and I'm really just happy that people appreciate it.